Comedians Don't Count
By Elayne Boosler -- Broadcasting & Cable, 7/25/2004 8:00:00 PM
I know why most people get into show business; fame, fortune, parties, adulation, and lots of free stuff. Not me. I just needed a job where I didn't have to do math. I am simply incapable of it. I thought: Television. I surely wouldn't need geometry there.
During years of comedy touring, I did learn to multiply two drinks and a cover charge by seating capacity minus the promoter's immediate family and girlfriend, less 10% for advertising and 15% commission. I can even give that answer in feet.
But nothing had prepared me for my new job: hosting a game show, Balderdash on Pax.
Funny's no problem. I get to banter with comedy minds like Regan Burns, George Wendt, Bill Engvall and French Stewart, to name just a few of our guests. I get to hear lovely contestants sum up their amazingly full lives as we learn a little bit about them. All is ease and fun. The comedians tell stories. Two contestants bet points that they are either true stories or not. Simple enough.
The game begins. And then the scoring starts, and I look like my dog when I hold up two cookies at the same time. What to do?
For reasons that are still not clear to me, I seem to talk more quickly than the Balderdash computer can assess the bets. I figure, no trouble. I'll do the math in my head, right? How hard can it be? They'll bet a hundred, a hundred and fifty. But, well, no, they don't. They bet their daughter's birthday, two-thirteen. They bet their wedding anniversaries, five-eleven. They bet wrong. That's five-eleven from nine-sixteen.
Tape is rolling. So are my eyes. The live audience is rooting. But the computer is … not there. I can't lose the moment. So I say in my best host voice, "Sara, you had 1,409 points and correctly chose Andy Kindler, but you didn't bet enough. I'm sorry!"
Sara looks up—this sweet, lovely woman who has told us she has three children, teaches violin and volunteers at an elder hospice. Softly, apologetically. she says, "Yes, I did."
"Well, then!!" I boom. "We have a winner!!" The audience roars with laughter. The director yells "Cut!" The producer, shaking his head, goes out for a cigarette. The editor searches for a pickup point. And somewhere in Brooklyn, Mrs. Prager, my third-grade teacher, who must be 100 by now, is thinking, "I told her so."
And that's my three cents.
Boosler's Balderdash, airing weeknights on Pax, premieres Aug. 2 at 8:30 p.m. ET. As it so happens, incidentally, by miscalculation, her Airtime was approximately 50 words short.
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